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The Observer June 30

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Little Rock’s cast of street characters has a new player, and he is the most theatrical of the bunch. We don’t have a name for him, but he’s an Edgar Bergen for the 21st century, on some other planet. We call him that because he spreads his message by way of a talking dummy that he holds in front of his face. The talking dummy is handmade, and instead of Charlie McCarthy’s movable jaws, he has just a hole in his face. He reminds The Observer of Catch 22’s soldier in white, whose feeding tube and catheter bags are switched when one empties into the other. He’s creepy, so we haven’t gotten close enough to hear the message. However, the talking dummy man (who also carries an umbrella) wears a sandwich board, and if you read the fine print, you will learn that Jesus saves. So ironically, the talking dummy man’s message is more readily learned from words on his back rather than a projected voice from the front. That the gentleman has chosen this particular way of spending his days is not really so surprising. But how on earth does he get from his haunt at 12th Street and Fair Park to downtown? Does he drive? Does he walk? Does his dummy call a cab? Or does he take a bus, and if so, how many fares is he charged? Humans are an unusual species, capable of huge variation in habits. We aren’t all driven by the urge to spread the word; we can’t all be ventriloquists, the Loveologist, or Jesus. Some of us just slog away at our desks trying to think of something to say. Fortunately, one of us in The Observatory is a poet. And so, we present: Hiker’s haiku A dead-end street’s Morning litter Black-lace panties and a Wendy’s sack. A child returning from a trip to the beach had a question for The Observer. Why does everyone in Alabama wave and wear the Confederate flag? It took the form of bumper stickers and swimsuits and beach towels and she, being an Arkansan and largely spared the rebel flag phenomenon, didn’t get it. Then The Observer took a drive into northern Pulaski County Saturday evening, winding through Runyan Acres, Gravel Ridge and other clusters of houses up toward Otto. Along the way, we passed a house with a full-sized Confederate battle flag waving from a pole mounted by the front door. What would motivate someone to wave the banner of the Lost Cause rather than the flag of this country, at this very minute defended by living and dying soldiers in a very real war halfway around the world? Is a memory more important than the reality? Or is a blunt message intended for certain passersby — “Don’t let the sun set on you here.” We hope not. It would be decidedly unneighborly. Not many yards away stood a sign for a predominantly black church. Perhaps the flag-waver is a history buff. Perhaps, like those Japanese holdouts in the hills of the Philippines, he hasn’t heard about Appomattox Courthouse. All things considered, we thought it best not to stop and ask. It had been so long since The Observer had been around a tennis court that we had to be reminded how to score it. What’s love got to do with it anyway? Why can’t you just say each game requires five points to win and a two-point margin? Our niece was in town to play in the Southern Closed tournament at Burns Park in North Little Rock. Tennis at this level is a very polite sport. Cheering is discouraged, except for the occasional quietly uttered, “Good shot.” There’s gentility on the court, too. Players call the shots. But when things get tense, there are subtle ways to argue with the self-umpiring. Like when a shot goes long and the receiving player calls, “Out,” and the player who hit the long ball responds, “Sure?” It’s the polite way of saying, “What, are you blind? Get yourself some glasses.” We wondered: In the history of tennis, has a player who called a ball out, after hearing that “Sure?” ever said, “You know, you’re right. I lied. That shot was in. Take the point.” While decorum reigned, The Observer about blew a gasket, deprived of the ability to scream, groan and curse. And not a single person got a forearm in the mouth. They call that sport?

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